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Government targets for the provider carrying out fit-to-work medical assessments for people on benefits are too easy, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).The contract to provide work capability health assessments was won by Atos amid warnings that getting people off long-term sickness benefits and into work would be difficult.The provider was paid more than £112m in the last financial year to conduct about 738,000 medical checks on claimants. Yet many of the decisions ruling people fit to work have been successfully challenged in tribunals, with almost four out of 10 decisions overturned.An NAO analysis of the system criticised the government for failing to set “sufficiently challenging” targets or enforce financial penalties on Atos for “under performance”.
However, last month a BBC Panorama investigation suggested that the target-driven system was encouraging Atos assessors to make incorrect decisions, as the provider did not want to leave too many people on ill-health benefits.Whatever impact the targets are having, there have been calls for the tests to be revised, most notably from Professor Malcolm Harrington, who was hired by the government to review the process.Now in a private letter to Tom Greatrex, Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, NAO Comptroller Amyas Morse said it was hard to know whether changes to the tests were needed.Morse wrote: "It is difficult to assess, as the department does not routinely request feedback on the rationale for tribunal decisions."Without such data it is not clear whether any changes in the medical process are needed.”Greatrex had asked NAO to examine the tests when he could not access the data because of confidentiality issues. In response to the NAO findings, he said: "This is a damning assessment of the failure of the government to get value for money for the taxpayer or properly hold Atos to account for the chaos and confusion at the heart of the work capability assessment. The government must reflect on this scathing report and bring forward serious proposals for reform."
Have your say...<br/>I have been through this process twice. The first time I score zero but was successful on appeal.<br/><br/>Undertook the second assessment in May and again scored zero. My appeal is somewhere within the process.<br/><br/>Found the whole process to be totally impersonal and they seem to have set questions to ask, that seem loaded against you.<br/><br/>There was no medical just the questions.
I have recently had one of these assessments carried out by ATOS, to say the least, many of the remarks made in the report to the DWP were not factual and far fetched. One particular comment made in the report was, that I taught my wife to do the housework. Exactly what relevance this is to my working capability is mind boggling. The guy that carried out the assessment was not a Doctor, he was only a Registered Nurse.<br/><br/>Looking at the assessment papers, it is abundantly clear that, despite the government's continued denials, it is clearly a tick-box system, if you can do something, regardless of difficulty, then you are fit to work. It has also been mentioned during interview on the TV by the person who set the system up in the first place, his comments were clear and precise "the present system is not fit for purpose",yet despite this comment Duncan-Smith is singing its praises.